Tag Archive: Laurel Hester
Roberto Deane has been teaching elementary school in Cape May for 24 years, but because his partner is another man, the school district is denying his partner from receiving health benefits. If you’re in the area, come out to support him tonight at the school board meeting at 8:00 pm at the Mitnick School, 905 Seashore Road, Cape May.
The domestic partnership law passed by the legislature a few years ago allows but does not require that government employees receive domestic partner benefits. Each county, municipality, school district, etc must decide whether to grant equal rights to their employees or to discriminate.
Garden State Equality is having what will likely be the last Town Meeting before the Supreme Court decides on the legality of same-sex marriage. The meeting is a tribute to the late Lieutenant Laurel Hester, who spent the last year of her life fighting for domestic partner benefits while battling cancer:
TONIGHT, Thursday, May 4 at 7 pm, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Monmouth County, 1475 West Front Street, Lincroft
Garden State Equality presents the New Jersey LGBTI community’s official statewide tribute to the late Lieutenant Laurel Hester/A rally for marriage equality
Law enforcement officials who knew Lieutenant Hester at different stages of her career — who have never spoken publicly about her until now — will share riveting stories you never knew about this civil rights legend.
Looking to the future, the law enforcement officials will then speak about the grotesque unfairness of denying marriage equality to gays — including to the officials themselves who put their lives on the line every single day.
This may well be the rally before the New Jersey Supreme Court delivers its marriage-equality decision.
The rally will feature never-before-seen footage of Lieutenant Hester.
And Garden State Equality will present the next Lieutenant Laurel Hester Prize for Citizen Courage to teacher Lily McBeth, who successfully stood down the bigots who sought to ban her from the classroom because she is transgender.
From Garden State Equality:
Reminder: The memorial service for the late Lieutenant Laurel Hester is at noon Saturday, March 4 at St. Mary’s By the Sea Episcopal Church, 804 Bay Avenue, Point Pleasant Beach.
Immediately before the service, from 10 am -11:30 am in Farnsworth Hall at the church, there will be a reception for friends and family.
Just one month after the late Lt. Laurel Hester was finally granted domestic partner benefits by the freeholders of Ocean County, another woman in Ocean County is the target of bigotry.
Lily McBeth is a 70 year-old transgendered substitute teacher in the Eagleswood School District. According to Garden State Equality, last week a parent in the district “took out an ad in a community newspaper last week to encourage others to attend the Eagleswood Township Board of Education meeting this coming Monday, February 27th at 7 pm to protest against Ms. McBeth’s right to teach in the classroom.”
The reason? Because being transgendered “violates” this person’s religious beliefs.
“The good citizens of Ocean County proved their fairness with their outrage over the treatment of Laurel Hester in the months before she died,” said Steven Goldstein, chair of Garden State Equality. “We believe Ocean County will now rise to the occassion in support of Lily McBeth, whose reputation is unsurpassed. A great teacher is a great teacher, period. New Jersey courts have ruled it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of a person’s being transgender, so if the school board were to prevent Lily McBeth from teaching, it would be playing with legal fire of the most dangerous kind.”
CALL TO ACTION: Garden State Equality asks supporters of LGBTI rights across New Jersey, straight and LGBTI citizens alike, to join us at the meeting of the Eagleswood Township Board of Education this Monday, February 27th at 7 pm, 511 Main Street, West Creek (map), in support of Lily McBeth and the right of all transgender citizens to live and work with dignity and equality. The Eagleswood School District is in West Creek, which is in Southern Ocean County.
Laurel Hester’s dream was to be a resource to help gay teens:
As she came closer to retirement, the inevitable questions about what she would do after leaving the job started coming. She said she didn’t dare reveal her true desire — to be a resource person for high school gay student groups — so she’d always make up something.
Her calling to help kids was rooted in her experiences in college. She said that when she was outed she had no support groups, nothing at school to guide her through that tumultuous time.
“In the ’70s when I helped start that group, that was a huge controversy,” she said. “Now we’re seeing high schools on that same level, forming clubs, filing lawsuits, meeting resistance.
“My dream job was to be a resource person for any school in Ocean County, for any kid that needs somebody to talk to, needs somebody to listen, has questions, but is too embarrassed to ask,” she said. “Just a place to go to report incidents. A place where they could get together as a group and realize they are not alone.”
She also was realistic about her dream.
“Oh, man, I think I would have hit a ton of bricks,” she said. “There are about 700 high school (gay) groups across the nation, but that’s not nearly enough. Too many kids are being harassed, beaten. They’re afraid to go to school.”
In Laurel’s memory, a scholarship fund has been set up with the help of her partner Stacie Andree and friend Dane Wells. The Laurel Hester Scholarship Fund, which will be administered by the NJ Lesbian & Gay Coalition, will be for the benefit of “young adults who have shown leadership in the LGBTI community.”
Memorial contributions can be made to:
Laurel Hester Scholarship Fund/TPLF
c/o The Personal Liberty Fund
P.O. Box 11335
New Brunswick, NJ 08906-1335
Laurel’s obituary is below.
Haven’t done one of these in a while. Are they useful?
Laurel Hester, partner of Stacie Andree, and described as “New Jersey’s Rosa Parks”, passed away this morning at their home in Point Pleasant. Although I never met Laurel, I will remember her for her unselfish, relentless courage – from her 24-year career in the county prosecutor’s office through the most physically and emotionally painful last year of her life. Laurel always fought for justice and her bravery inspired countless others to join in that fight. Without a doubt, Laurel left the world a better and more just place than she found it.
“She meant the world to me. I’m glad what we went through is done with. It was the fight that kept her going. … She’s at peace now. There’s no more pain.”
“She really did make a gigantic impact on literally the world. She was a very, very private, guarded person. Something like this was the absolute last thing she wanted. It took a lot of absolute courage to do what she did.
She was perhaps best known for her dedication, integrity and dignity. She was really a pioneer among women in law enforcement and as such faced an uphill climb. She very quickly earned the respect of men in her profession.”
Steven Goldstein of Garden State Equality:
“Make no mistake about this. Laurel Hester was the Rosa Parks of New Jersey gay and lesbian civil rights. She gave a face and a name to our struggle for equality, particularly in marriage equality.
It was as if the role was always destined for her even if she didn’t already know it. History sometimes taps on the shoulder heroes who never anticipated they would be heroes. Laurel Hester is one such person.â€
Like any person who knows they’re dying, Hester was interested in providing for the person she loved, her partner of many years, Stacie. How ordinary, how everyday, how remarkable.
Hester, who was gay, was blocked by her employers, the Ocean County Freeholder board, from making sure Stacie could receive Hester’s benefits. And the Freeholders resisted – because the law allowed them to.
It doesn’t surprise me that a woman in law enforcement would fight what she saw as an injustice, and she did that, gracefully. But as she faded and grew weaker, other people began to show up and fight first alongside her and then for her, and in her name. And the pressure was too much for five local Freeholders. They relented, they reversed. Stacie will inherit what Laurel fought for her to have. And towns and counties all over New Jersey are suddenly more open-minded about what defines family.
The woman who focused a movement in New Jersey has died. But before she did that, she triumphed.
Laurel Hester’s battle for justice was thoroughly inspiring. After such a long period of what at times has seemed like fruitless activism – her courage and determination – and success – were acts of love, not just for her partner Stacie, but for everyone fighting for justice in an unjust world.
May she be remembered long after her passing.
Michael Jenson at The Big Gay Picture:
I’ve little doubt Laurel lived as long as she did not only because she had something to fight for, but because she believed she was fighting for every one of us. Her passing is a terrible loss, but know that Laurel died content having finished her life the way she had always lived it–doing the right thing in the most honorable and ethical way possible.
New Jersey Lesbian and Gay Coalition:
“The board and membership of the New Jersey Lesbian and Gay Coalition join in sorrow with all of New Jerse’s LBGTI community as we honor the passing of Laurel Hester, the heroic woman whose dramatic battle for equal rights touched lives around the world.”
New Jersey should be sadder for her passing, but is a better place for her having lived.
All of us owe her a debt of gratitude for fighting (and winning) an important battle in the struggle for equality.
That she and her partner undertook this effort while battling cancer at the same time is a remarkable example of courage and tenacity under even the most trying circumstances.
I salute the Liuetenant and her partner, through tears of appreciation. Heroes in the true sense of the word.
We will honor and remember her with gratitude for her life lived in service; for her courage to the end in fighting for what’s right; and for her passing at her home in the presence of those she loved.
I grieve for Stacie, and for all of Laurel’s friends and wellwishers, those Lt. Hester knew and those she had never met, including me.
But I rejoice in the following thought: We would all feel much worse, had Stacie’s and Laurel’s and our fight been in vain.
It was NOT in vain. Hester, Andree, and all of us fought against bigotry and injustice, and we ALL won. Out of the tragedy of Lt. Laurel’s struggle and death, we have all won a victory for equal rights, and a promise of hope for the future, for every LGBT person in the world.
Every such victory enhances and advances our world and our species. Each victory is a light against the darkness of fear and prejudice. Any victory for justice means one less injustice in history.
For myself, every time I think about Laurel Hester’s cruel last year, I will remind myself that Stacie Andree gets to remain living in their own house. And I will smile through my tears.
Her plea put a poignant face on the gay rights movement in New Jersey and around the nation. The freeholder board, which initially turned her down, ultimately acquiesced last month, and other counties began changing their rules as well.
Lieutenant Laurel Hester, the 23 year veteran of the Ocean County prosecutor’s office who spent nearly a year fighting for her rights while battling cancer, recently fell into a coma and is near death. Our thoughts and prayers are with Laurel, her partner Stacie Andree and their family and friends.
Despite her health, Laurel’s legacy lives on. Last night, Berkeley Township became the second municipality in Ocean County to pass domestic partner benefits.
The Big Gay Picture had previously interviewed Laurel Hester and her friend Dane Wells who was so instrumental in helping convince the Ocean County freeholders to pass domestic partner benefits. They recently interviewed Laurel’s partner – Stacie Andree:
Stacie Andree is worried. The thirty year-old auto mechanic has certainly had more than her fair share of worries over the past eighteen months. Her domestic partner, Laurel Hester, is dying from terminal cancer. And after Stacie and Laurel tried to get domestic partner benefits from Laurel’s employer–Ocean County, NJ–the two women found themselves embroiled in a protracted and controversial struggle with the five Republican freeholders who govern Ocean County. But none of that is what troubles Stacie just now.
She is worried that no one knows how grateful she is for all the support she and Laurel received during their long fight for equality–a fight that they finally won last month.
Read the rest at the Big Gay Picture.